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Festival 2019

Next stop Hebcelt for fast-tracking Ferris & Sylvester

In the three years they have been playing together, Issy Ferris and Archie Sylvester have been living an ever-changing and expanding dream.

The London-based singer-songwriter duo formed in 2017 having played the same venue for six months without performing together. When eventually they linked up, their combination of folk, blues and indie rock had them quickly tipped for success and saw them described as somewhere between Jack White and First Aid Kit.

Keen to get their music out, but with little budget, the pair, who appear at the award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival in July, recorded and self-produced their ‘Made in Streatham’ EP last year in the kitchen of their flat. It was released through their own label and has since clocked up millions of streams on Spotify.

The momentum has continued to build for Ferris & Sylvester, with a sold-out debut headline tour around the UK, another underway and more dates planned, singles issued and an album on the way.

“It was always our dream to tour the world, playing to people every night and make a living from our music. It’s actually quite surreal that we’re doing it now”, says Issy.

“We are really happy with how things are going and enjoying the journey. Most of the time we’re so involved in every detail of what’s going on - whether that be in the songs, the creative process, touring or running our own label - we end up taking it day by day, show by show.

“Our plan is simple really; we want to make the best music we can and share it with as many people as possible.

“This year is shooting past us and we’re enjoying it every day, but we have to breathe and leave time to write. What a ride we’re on.”

The duo’s original goal was to find a sound that combined both their voices and styles: “What made it so interesting when we first started writing were the different ideas we brought to the table”, recalls Archie. “We came at it from different angles, so what we ended up with was exciting and different.

“There are really no rules when we write together. It never happens the same way twice and we want to keep it that way. It can be tempting to follow a structure or try to write within one genre bracket, but we try to make every songwriting experience different.

“Sometimes, one of us will come with a starting point; whether that be a poem or a chord sequence, or even one lyric. Sometimes there’s a more fully-fledged idea and sometimes we’ll sit down together and just start from scratch. We both do the lyrics and the music, so the whole process from the start of the song to the finished product is collaborative.”

At the moment, the focus is on writing material for the new album. Issy continues: “We’re listening to lots of different stuff whilst on the road and we regularly change things up with our writing style; often we’ll try to write a song on an instrument that we’re not so familiar with and it can lead to places that you wouldn’t have got to if we’d have stayed in our comfort zones.

“We always tend to write about things that are personal to us and our experiences. Our latest single for instance, ‘Flying Visit’ is inspired by our five-year-old friend, Otto, whom I looked after when he was tiny. The lyrics are a combination of things he’s said over the years that show a child’s ability to love people without any shame.”

Their HebCelt debut will see them play in the festival main arena on Friday, 19 July and the pair are excited at the prospect.

“We’ve heard great things about the festival and are big fans of the scenery in the Outer Hebrides”, says Archie. “The pictures we’ve seen of the festival look absolutely stunning so we can’t wait to explore and enjoy all the music.

“Plus, it’s a great line-up and we’re honoured to be a part of it. Fingers crossed for some good weather.

“Whenever we play - it doesn’t matter if it’s to nine people and a dog or to thousands - we want to give it everything. We’re so proud to be up on stages across the world and play our songs to people.

“It’s just the two of us on stage, but we play drums, bass, electric guitar and acoustic. There’s a bit of blues, folk, rock ‘n’ roll and soul. There’ll be foot stomping, Icelandic chants, finger clicking, sing alongs. We cannot wait to play for you.”